Wednesday, December 14, 2016


The island across from the cottage yesterday, just after the snow quit.

It snowed yesterday…the first real snow this time around. What the old folks would have referred to as a "sticking snow."

Heretofore the closest we'd come were a few flakes swirling about on northerly winds a time or two over the last couple of weeks. Never enough to scoop up a teaspoon full, let alone whiten the ground. 

But this one wasn't messing about—it began early, soon after daylight, and kept at it until mid-afternoon. Four or five inches worth. The sky stayed dim and sullen the whole day. 

Today, the sun is shining bright and the sky's a radiant azure blue. But numbingly cold—3˚F for last night's low and only 12˚F now, an hour before noon. Too cold too soon! Most years we never experience such arctic lows before mid-January.

Ahh, well…that's Ohio for you. And cold or not, the snow is lovely. 

The same island view, except made today with blue skies and sunshine!


Monday, December 5, 2016


Great blue heron, stalking a breakfast fish along the river near the cottage, on a cloudy morning a few days ago.

Well, it's been awhile. Longer, certainly, than I intended—though in truth, maybe just long enough. Looking back, it was painfully obvious I needed a break. My posts were boring, repetitious; I could feel myself getting stale.

Ongoing remodeling work had literally engulfed my life and mind. I've scarcely made a photo in months, other than an occasional shot from around the yard or along the stretch of river which flows past the cottage. From early autumn until just before Thanksgiving, as time grew shorter, I became increasingly exhausted both physically and mentally—desperate to finish several projects before the holidays. 

This was accomplished, thanks to the tireless and expert help of my wonderful neighbor Mike, who did practically all the plumbing. A huge worry lifted off my mind! 

During my hiatus, several dear and faithful readers—true friends—called, messaged or emailed, wondering if I was okay. I was, except for a trip to the E.R. in November, to drain 100-plus mls of fluid from under an injured kneecap. That flat hurt! And I do apologize to those made fearful during the week-long recovery, when I gimped around the house at high-speed—a one-crutched Chester (remember Gunsmoke?)—and doubtless a mortal danger not only to myself but anyone nearby, especially those inadvertently trapped in a hall or doorway.

Thank you, one and all. I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate your thoughts and concern.
I probably won't be posting more than a time or two per week for a bit. I continue working on the house when I can, and still need to saw and split sufficient firewood to get us through winter. On top of which, Christmas and New Year's loom, with their attendant preparations and celebrations. 

But I've returned—and glad to be back, because it honestly feels like coming home.   

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


At bedtime last night, the temperature inside the cottage was 70˚F. and doubtless several degrees less than that outside. Even so, I decided to leave the whole-house fan going—pulling cool air in through every open screen.

When I got up at 5:00 a.m., the outside temperature was a chilly 56˚F…exactly the same as the temperature inside the cottage!

Nope. That's not a complaint!

Fact is, I feel great—energized, rarin' to go. I've already fixed breakfast for Myladylove and myself, washed the dishes, taken a short walk along the river and made a few photos, written next week's column which is due tomorrow, and driven the few miles to my local Home Depot where I spent nearly an hour picking out GFCI plugs, looking at mirrors and vanity lights, and trying to sort through the options for a ventilation system I want to put together and install at this stage of my remodeling job.

That's more stuff accomplished already than I've sometimes managed for an entire day when temperatures climb toward the 100˚F mark!

Life is is not a beach…it's frost on your pumpkin. I'm cranked when it's cool!

Friday, September 9, 2016


Early morning…a great blue heron takes a drink from the rain-refurbished river.

It rained last night. A long, soaking drizzle which began about 9:00 p.m. and continued until an hour or so before dawn. The passing storm cooled things off considerably, invigorating the air, while the steady drip and patter coming through the open screen provided great ambient noise for sleeping. Today, the landscape looks fresh-scrubbed and the river seems livelier—murky rather than muddy, up by maybe a couple of inches.

For the past few days I've been working on the final phase of our bathroom remodel. This necessitated removing drywall off two walls, rerouting various electrical lines and fixtures, plus making several temporary plumbing adjustments—even though a neighbor and I plan to convert the cottage's entire plumbing system to PEX in a couple of weeks. 

Neither the bathroom or laundry area, the two rooms in which I was working, offer much ventilation. With all the drywall dust being created, fans were not an option. So in a "dead air" room of a non-air-conditioned house, outside temperatures of 90˚F and higher assure sauna-like working conditions inside. Hot, stuffy, tough on breathing. Sort of like working inside a nailed-shut coffin. 

I drank water by the gallon, sweated it out as fast as it went in, and had the quickly discharging energy capacity of an old iPhone battery that needed replacing years earlier. Not fun.

Occasionally I needed a break from these sessions of necessary abuse—when the heat, exhaustion, lack of oxygen, dust inhaled into my lungs, and near-blindness caused by the steady bath of salty sweat streaming into my eyes became unbearable. So I adjourned to the side yard where I'd set up my sawhorses and work tables, for an alternate project constructing a floor-to-ceiling cabinet for the bathroom. 

Yes, the oxygen supply outdoors was more plentiful. And I am indeed smart enough to have placed my work site in the shade under several towering sycamores. But 92˚F in the shade is still 92˚F…an oven is still an oven! And the once-per-hour lethargic stirring of the air—not anywhere close to being sufficient to call a breeze—brought little in the way of relief. 

But I persevered, prevailed, and survived. I think. And yesterday evening, amid much shoving, cajoling—and when that failed, judiciously applied application of a few vicious whacks with a rubber mallet—Myladylove and I managed to set this recalcitrant cabinet in place.

Now, if only it stays cool for awhile…

Saturday, September 3, 2016


Here's something you don't see every day…a black groundhog! I've only ever seen one other black-furred woodchuck—and that occasion, several years ago, afforded merely a fleeting, drive-by glimpse at some distance.

Like spontaneous magic, this amazing individual simply appeared in my yard the other morning, pausing no more than ten feet beyond the window! I was truly flabbergasted!

The expected coat coloration for groundhogs is a basic, run-of-the-mill brown. Black-furred wild critters are few and far between here in Ohio. A few black squirrels in small colonies scattered throughout the state—though none anywhere near my southwestern bailiwick. And in Ohio's Appalachian foothill regions—miles away from these pastoral precincts—you might spot one of the handful of black bears who call the Buckeye State home.

Otherwise, the only black mammals you'll see are wandering cats and dogs. My visitor was a genetic anomaly—an atypical, dressed-in-sable, melanistic-phase whistle-pig!

Melanism is an overdevelopment of the dark-colored pigment—melanin—in fur, skin, feathers, or scales. It's the opposite of albinism, which is a lack of color pigment, and can occur in any animal, including birds and reptiles. Those classy-looking black squirrels are really melanistic-phase gray squirrels—a fairly common occurrence. 

Over the years I've seen any number of melanistic-phase animals, including various hawks, whitetail deer, raccoons, and foxes. But when it comes to groundhogs, I'm told melanism is extremely rare. 

I'm fortunate such a unique creature came my way—and glad I can share this singular treat.

Friday, August 19, 2016


While recently poking about a local prairie patch, thinking to make a few photos of butterflies and blacked-eyed Susans, I chanced upon a humble bumble bee working a pink clump of fragrant milkweed. Deciding it might make a good shot, I zoomed in, focused and—just getting started—clicked off a single image. 

Huh? Something fast and shadowy swooped through the viewfinder. The bee suddenly disappeared. 

I lowered the camera and began looking around…and there on a nearby stem was the answer: the breakfasting bumble bee had become breakfast for a marauding robber fly. 

Talk about a good morning gone bad! 

Robber flies are the insect equivalent of saber-tooth tigers. Fast-flying aerial predators with sharp eyesight and a proboscis designed for stabbing, through which they inject a powerful neurotoxic venom along with digestive juices to liquify their victim's innards—which the robber fly then sucks up like a sort of smoothie. 

Amazing creatures, really. Though truly bad news if you're a bee. The old folks sometimes called them a "bee panther." Which is pretty apt…and puts me in mind of that old Ogden Nash ditty: "When called by a panther, don't anther." 


Friday, August 12, 2016


Here in southwestern-Ohio, the high temp again exceeded 90˚F yesterday, as it did the day before and the day before that, ad infinitum. Global warming? Cosmic payback for building one too many strip malls or freeways? 

I dunno. Maybe it's always been that hot between April and October. My memory banks are just too over-cooked to trust. Remembering an occasional cooler stretch during July and August could be a mere fantasy on my part, an illusion based on wishful thinking.

I won't even mention the muggy, smothering humidity! Let's just say those fancy new high-tech moisture-wicking fabrics have met their match!

Nope. The only meaningful information—the only answer we wring-us-out-like-a-washrag suffers care about—is this: Is summer is almost over?

YUP! I have been to the field and witnessed with my own sweat-stung eyes. THE IRONWEED IS BLOOMING! And anyone who knows anything about the seasonal passage can tell you—when the ironweed comes into bloom, summer's days are numbered. 

Ironweed doesn't lie and it's never wrong. The clock is ticking. The countdown has begun. Here in Buckeyeland the ironweed is blooming!